Tag Archives: signings

“A Football Family Reunion for the Ages; Ken Stabler’s NFL HOF Induction”

 

ken stabler hof bustA family reunion for the ages.

In a night that went as perfect as a last minute Ken Stabler drive, Ken Michael Stabler took his rightful place in the NFL pro football hall of fame. For one last time, Ken Stabler lead everyone on a magical ride that will never be forgotten.

With decades of Raider tradition all around mixed in with a little Southern warmth from the state of Alabama, Canton looked more like Oakland, Ca than the sleepy town that wakes up for a week every year before the NFL season starts.

With several Raiders by their sides and HOF WR Fred Biletnikoff giving support, Ken Stabler’s grandsons unveiled the HOF bust of their beloved grandfather. In one action, all of the emotions that have built up from decades of frustration, anticipation, sadness and hope was released. Tears flowed, and closure began to fill the air slowly like a soft mist on a hot night.   All the years of waiting; all the unjust votes and comments came out in a healing moment that hopefully now brings closure to an amazing career by an amazing man.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681148/Ken-Stabler-Enshrinement

Brett Favre’s Moment:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681185/Hall-of-Fame-QB-Brett-Favre-shares-a-story-about-Ken-Stabler

Why He’s Loved So Much:

I have many good friends from around the country who ask me, why was there so much emotion and love for Ken Stabler. I think the answer is easy.

When the Snake saw a fan he didn’t care what color you were. He didn’t care if you were famous or rich.   He truly appreciated the adoration that was given him. I think Ken always knew how important he was to the City of Oakland, Alabama and the bay area. That’s why he was so kind to so many. He never judged; never lashed out; he was always good to those that supported him, and shrugged off those that hurt him. Many saw a little of themselves in Ken. Sometimes misunderstood, often doubted, and occasionally misjudged. Ken was an every man and in reality so many people related to the things he went through.

Ken was real. He made mistakes; he failed at times; he was ripped in the media at times; but he ALWAYS dusted himself off and kept coming. He never quit and the harder someone pushed, the harder he pushed back. The Raiders and Ken Stabler smashed people in the mouth and never gave up. That’s why when most teams would have quit, the Raiders usually won due to the never give up attitude of the Snake. Ken was a lot like the fans that supported him. He was a lot like the City of Oakland and the East Bay; always fighting, never quitting.

 

 

Why Younger Fans Should Be Excited:

Some younger Raider fans seem to be in a fog at the great adoration for Ken and this amazing era. Let’s face it, we live in a society where history to some is what pokemon go character you caught last night. If it’s old, society seems to not care about it.

If you are a younger fan, look at the extreme excitement that is seen in social media today for the upcoming season. The Raiders were 7-9 last year and some are nearly losing their minds with excitement. Nothing wrong with that especially with all the improvements, but put it into perspective.

Think about going 56-13 in Ken’s first 69 starts. Think of going 18-1-1 on Monday night football. Think of having the highest winning % of ANY professional team in the U.S. of ANY sport for a 25 year stretch. Think of 3 Super Bowls in 7 years and 5 straight AFC Championship games. For almost 3 decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were consistently on top of the NFL ratings for most watched teams on television. Oh and don’t forget having more wins in the greatest NFL decade of all time, the 1970’s. Could you imagine what Ken and the Raiders offense could do with today’s rules?   Now you understand OUR excitement.   As Raider great Tim Brown said Friday, “When Ken walked into our locker room you saw everyone change. It was like royalty had just come into the room.   The Raiders of that time were just that good; people adored him.”

A Leader to the End:

The reason this meant so much to so many is because Ken really was the Raiders leader in every way.   He was a leader on the field and off.   Players felt he was invincible and looked to him when things got rough. Even after his death he inspired. Raiders greats like George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler followed in Ken’s footsteps and decided to donate their brains to the study of CTE and give them to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after they passed away.   Truly unselfish acts inspired by the Snake’s selflessness and the encouragement of his partner Kim Bush.

“When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together,” Thoms said in a Mercury News article. George Atkinson has complained often of his memory issues. “Ken meant so much to us and we felt we needed to do this.”

The Closest Team in the NFL:

Many of the retired Raider players talked about how close they were to each other. Many stated how no team was as tight as they were.   Even after retiring, they would meet for dinner often and even if players were out of state, they would fly back to join their fellow teammates. It was important to them to stay in touch with an incredible time that gave them so much enjoyment.

Jim Jamz:

We have many older patients and one is Mr. & Mrs. C who live deep in the wine country (I wont give their name for health privacy reasons.) They used to be a Raiders season ticket holders in the 60’s and 70’s.   I visited them recently.

Mrs. C is the classic sweet nurturing elderly woman who still feels a good meal will solve any problem. Mr. C was a successful businessman who’s health is failing. I go to their house so he doesn’t have to go into the office. I also know they enjoy my visits. Mr. C usually holds court with a scotch in his hand while I get my usual pay for a house call. A cold beer with a roast beef or turkey sandwich or the occasional German Chocolate cake and cold glass of milk.

“You know something James, those times were so special and those guys meant the damn world to us.   Players like Tom Keating and Art Thoms; Tony Cline, Warren Wells, Charlie Smith, Raymond Chester. Tatum and Atkinson, Skip and Willie. Otto, Beuhler and Dalby; Upshaw and Shell; Sistrunk and Kinlaw; Rod Martin and Vilipiano. Sumner, Wolf, and Al Locasale. So many great men that gave their all to win. And Kenny was everyone’s favorite. No group of players and fans were closer. The minute you forget this son, you won’t be worth a damn as a writer, or as a fan.”

After a pregnant pause, Mr. C showed a moment of rare emotion. Pointing his finger at me he said softly while winking, “Ken in the Hall of Fame? This one means something son; this one means something.”

It sure does Mr. C.   It sure does.

 

“Answering Critics of The Oakland Raiders Draft; Why Draft Connor Cook? Grading the Picks.”

 

shilique calhoun
Michigan St. DE Shilique Calhoun against Ohio St.

For the first time in my life time, it seemed that most teams did fairly well at the 2016 NFL draft. One of those teams that did really well was the Oakland Raiders.

Many fans though have expressed their displeasure at certain picks, so let’s answer all the questions that people have in regards to these picks.

Value Pick v.s. Karl Joseph:

I got beaten up on Twitter a little bit when I was for the drafting of West Virginia Safety Karl Joseph. Like most people I had him as a top 30 player. My favorite DM on twitter was, “I thought you liked value picks; then how can you defend choosing Joseph?”

The answer to that is this. The Raiders desperately wanted Joseph in the second round. They also wanted Reggie Ragland. With the news coming that Ragland had an enlarged Aorta that would need yearly monitoring, Ragland dropped like a stone in the draft.   There were several teams that wanted Joseph in the late first round and early second round. NO WAY was Joseph falling to the Raiders in the second round.   The Raiders knew that to draft him they had to draft him earlier than expected. The hope was for Ragland to drop to them in the second round and he almost did; Buffalo nabbed him. But looking back Joseph is a really good player; probably a late first round talent that will greatly help your team. It was a risk they took and I would have too.

Emphasizing DL made me very happy. I’ve said it a million times; look at history; the DL is so important to Super Bowl winning teams.

Some say on social media, “where can you watch these players play?   I follow all the experts and I don’t see film on these guys”. The answer is, WATCH THE COLLEGE GAMES! College Football has DOZENS of stations that show games not once; but several times in reruns. Almost all college conferences have tv networks. You DVR the games and watch the players you want to see. If you watch a game and the player plays great or the announcers say he stands out you pay attention to them. If the player never gets mentioned but is drafted you say wow; I didn’t even remember this guy.

Our fathers began taping & recording famous games audio and then when VCR/VHS came out they taped the games. My dad has the Holy Roller on tape; a friend of mine’s dad has Notre Dame’s stunning upset of UCLA to snap their 88 game winning streak on a tape recording; from 1974! I have hundreds of games transferred to DVD in my large library at my home. If you are a sports & history junkie, start your own collection.

For example 2 years ago I taped 3 games with an up and comer in the NFL draft, WR Tre McBride from William & Mary. I fast forwarded and when you get the hang of it you can watch a players plays in 10-15 minutes. There are 128 college teams in Division 1 only, and many more in D II and DIII.   NFL is a passion for people; college football is a religion. Here in silicon Valley you can live stream anything and also don’t have to worry about regional games only being seen. We’re techies and you learn things.

With that being said let’s look at the Jihad Ward and Conner Cook picks below and all of the critic questions should be answered.

1st Round: Karl Joseph S (14, West Virginia)

I’ve already written about Joseph here.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/the-oakland-raiders-mindset-on-day-in-depth-evaluation-of-karl-joseph-lots-of-good-little-bad/

Grade A-

2nd Round Jihad Ward DL (44; Illinois)

I’m not a fan of this pick.  I thought the Raiders drafted him too early and even then I’m not a fan.  He’s more athlete than football player. The after draft comments were interesting. When Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was asked if Ward was raw he snapped that he wasn’t. “The defensive line isn’t like playing QB”. When GM Reggie McKenzie was asked, he stated, “he’s definitely raw but we are not looking at him having a redshirt year. Hopefully if we coach him up he can be ready to contribute something this season”.

I don’t like quoting Pro Football Focus but to the few that defend this pick; PFF comments on Ward, “he had the 69th overall grade of edge defenders”. PFF then went on to say he may end up being a good run defender. Later on they say he may be a good pass rusher.   (see why PFF drives some people crazy?)

I watched Illinois several times and to be honest I barely remembered him. This was a reach at best in my mind. I think the Raiders were shocked too when Austin Johnson; stud DL out of Penn St.; and MLB Reggie Ragland was taken before their pick. With Alabama DL’s AShawn Robinson & Jarran Reed; as well as Clemson CB stud Mackenzie Alexander still on the board; this pick makes no sense in my mind but who knows. He’s a good story and I hope he does well.

GRADE: C-

3rd Round: Shalique Calhoun DL (75, Michigan St.)

Michigan St. was in so many featured games even the casual fan saw them often. Calhoun was a stud on a very physical and talented defensive line that at times carried the Spartans and kept them in games. He had 27 sacks for his career and 44 tackles for loss. He’s a playmaking pass rusher that needs to bulk up a bit and improve his run stopping skills. Some scouts say he’s too passive. I don’t think he’ll have a middle ground. Could be a diamond in the rough or struggle. I think the positive greatly outweighs any negative.  Great Pick!

GRADE: B+

4th Round: Connor Cook QB (100, Michigan St.)

The Raiders traded up to get Cook at #100. This one still has Raider nation scratching their heads. Let’s look at the facts.

History again is so important. All of those people guaranteeing the Raiders will move up in the first round every year forget that they’ve never done it in 57 drafts yet every year they predict it. Look at history. Well this pick was ALL about Ron Wolf and his history.

When Reggie was learning under Raider and Green Bay Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, the Packers drafted QB’s all the time. I’ve said it for years. Every team should draft a QB every year in the late round.

Even with Brett Favre as their starter, Ron Wolf and the Packers drafted Mark Brunell (5th round), Aaron Brooks (4th round), and Matt Hasselbeck (6th round). These 3 became key NFL starters for other teams. (In a famous John Madden story, when Al Davis asked his staff about drafting a young Alabama QB with bad knees, Al’s staff said no. He then asked Ron Wolf who said yes; Ken Stabler was then drafted).

Wolf had an amazing eye for QB’s and ALL three of these picks were eventually traded for key draft picks and players who helped create a winning organization keeping talent flowing.

Some have now said trade Carr. Ridiculous; I personally don’t like Cook and don’t think he’s going to be a starting NFL QB; he’s not accurate in the medium and short game. Some teams like him though.  He’s also not exactly a leader type at times as was seen in some of his comments when he was injured and missed the Ohio St. game.   Some experts and teams will disagree with me but that’s my take. Some have said his personality is a turn off and he needs to greatly mature to be a leader in the Pro’s.

This was a Ron Wolf type pick that will eventually be trade bait if he pans out. If not, he can then be a backup.   Matt McGloin will be on trade watch this pre season. In today’s QB world with so little talent, teams are willing to risk money and picks on projects that they think they can make into something special and some will want Cook; maybe badly. If your starting QB goes down though, your team is in trouble.

GRADE B+

5th Round: Deandre Washington RB (143 Texas Tech)

I’m a Big 12 guy and I’d like to thank Deandre Washington for being such a fun player to watch these last 4 years. I hope he does well. Most had Washington either a 6 or 7th rounder; few had him in the 5th round; and a handful even had him going undrafted.

This is a productive player who plays hard every play.  He can catch and run and was a work horse back for the Red Raiders. He returned kicks as a freshman. Many scouts complained that Washington may be a system guy at Texas Tech. The Big 12 is known for bad defense and wild west offenses so some question his numbers.   He’s also only 5’ 8” 205 and many scouts said he will struggle pass blocking. He is not a speed merchant but he’s fast enough and he’s tougher than he looks.

I like Washington but my pick here was Paul Perkins who I like a little more.  Many had Perkins going in the 3-5th round. Washington is a bit of a reach but time will tell if he pans out. I think he can be a situational player and a good pass catcher.  A tough guy that plays confident with football smarts. Fans will enjoy this guy this season.

GRADE B

6th Round: Cory James LB (194 Colorado St.)

At 6’ 225 lb. James has been a consistent 4 year starter for the Rams.   They moved him to MLB in his senior year but he is too small for that position in the NFL. He was also used as an edge rusher on passing downs and showed speed and athleticism. Some experts have really trashed this pick and I don’t know why. A project who should do well in special teams and will be a good backup.

GRADE B

7th Round Vadal Alexander T/G (234 LSU)

My SEC friends are asking how in the heck did this guy make it to the 7th round. Most had him going 3-4 round and this is a great pick. Alexander came to LSU around 370 and even at 6’ 5” he looked too bulky. He’s lost 30 pounds as a 4 year starter and was all SEC last year. He played guard and then later switched to tackle in college. He is a masher in the run game with crazy strength. He lacks athleticism and good foot speed which is why teams dropped him so low. He has inconsistent mechanics and needs work but this guy should be a solid backup and even get a few snaps here and there in time. Huge potential. This is the type of pick that winning teams make. Huge upside. He’ll be projected as a guard in the pro’s for his lack of foot speed but he has the potential to really help this team as a backup. I am shocked he lasted so long.

GRADE A-

There you have it; it seems that there is still a need for an MLB but remember that many things can still happen in the off season, pre season and even salary cap cuts before the season starts. Overall I really like this draft. Pick for today and for the future.

OVERALL GRADE:   B+

“Last Minute Rumors & Draft Scenarios For The Oakland Raiders 2016 NFL Draft”

 

oakland raiders war room

Day 1 of the NFL Draft is Here! Or as we call it guys day in.

Go ahead and have some fun with it because this draft is going to be very interesting. Let’s be real; experts, insiders, fans, ex players and even the teams themselves don’t know what players are going to be chosen.   It’s guesswork for everyone so I’m not curing cancer here. Let’s just use common sense and historic facts and look into the 2016 NFL Draft day 1.

The Trade Impact In the First Round:

First off I’m a huge talent over need guy.  Let’s say for instance you need a safety but the only ones that are there are 2nd or third round talents; I pass.  If you look at the Raiders history they’ve ruined drafts picking for needs.

Even with the rules allowing WR to roam free and the QB to barely be touched, the QB position in the NFL is at it’s worst in NFL history. Passing and Receiving records are falling to average players at best who are benefiting from the new rules. I can see the likes of Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice saying, “give me a bucket!”

Here is a good article by quality ESPN Writer Bill Barnwell on Drafting Qb’s:

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/15391775/taking-quarterback-early-round-2-makes-lot-sense-some-teams-nfl

I’m not a big fan of these 2 trades but I understand them.

Let’s look outside the box and stop just regurgitating what the “experts” are saying. Let’s think for ourselves and see what might be the mindset of teams in this years draft.

Raiders Trading Up:

The pre NFL draft is fun. Many sites try to stir the pot with mock drafts and scenarios and NFL combine #’s to keep people interested all year round. It is fun to do but let’s be real; 90% of this stuff never happens.

One of those scenarios is the annual can the Raiders trade up or down in the draft game. In 56 years please give me the list of all of the trades the Raiders have done to move up or down in the draft. Ron Wolf was the architect of many of the Raiders great drafts and he taught Reggie McKenzie all he knew at Green Bay.

Will the Raiders trade up?  No one knows.  But if you look at history it says the Raiders will do nothing and draft #14. When you trade up you are also in the mindset that you are 1 player away from being a top team.  They Raiders still have holes to fill.

The Raiders RB Reality of 2015:

The average fan almost always looks at offense but in reality you can’t win without a good to great defense.   Should the Raiders get a RB?   Yes. In the later rounds. But tell me last year how important the RB’s were in the championship game and in the Super Bowl? The Patriots were literally getting RB’s off the street; and the other 3 teams mostly used backups who didn’t exactly play like Walter Payton. What all 4 teams DID have were the 4 best DL’s in the NFL. New England had more sacks without blitzing than any other team in the NFL. Look at the history of the NFL; for the most part Defensive lines and defenses win championships; not RB’s.

The Raiders struggles last year began when Minnesota played a cover 2 defense and took away the long ball.   The Raiders medium passing game is bad and they never adjusted to other teams that did it as well. That’s not on the RB’s.

San Diego Chargers Pick Will Control the Draft:

Everyone has Ole Miss T Laremy Tunsil as the Chargers pick but let’s hold on.   The Chargers need to win now, and QB Philip Rivers is not getting any younger. The Chargers also paid a lot of money; some guaranteed; for tackles Joe Barksdale and King Dunlap. They also arent’ getting off cheap on their guards either. They could move one of their tackles to guard but now you are spending a ton of money on an OL when the defense is one of the worst in the NFL.

While the Raiders have a history of not trading up or down in the NFL draft, the Chargers have a lot of history. In recent year’s and in the past. (Rivers and Ladanian Tomlinson to name two). Chargers GM Tom Telesco is a wheeler and dealer for sure; for better or worse.

The Miami Dolphins are in big need of a franchise RB and rumors are swirling out of Miami that a trade with the Chargers isn’t out of the question. The Chargers have a kin to Notre Dame picks and they like OL Ronnie Stanley. They could trade down, get an extra pick or two and still get Stanley who other teams aren’t as high on.

If they do pick there, a defensive player like CB Jalen Ramsey or DL’s Joey Bosa or DeForest Buckner going to the Chargers would not shock me.

Ezekiell Elliott  RB Ohio St.:

Jerry Jones loves his badboys. I warned everyone that Randy Gregory DL out of Nebraska was an athlete playing football and of course Dallas took him in the 2nd round last year. In 12 games last year Gregory had 11 tackles and 0 sacks. He also tested positive for a drug of some kind (he was positive for pot in college) and he’s now suspended for the first four games. DeMarcus Lawrence had 8 sacks last year and he came into his own; he also has been suspended for 4 games for substance abuse. Add Greg Hardy’s departure and the DL for Dallas is just ugly. So they’ll go DL right?

Jerry Jones has always been an offensive guy and I see them taking Ezekiel Elliott, RB out of Ohio St. Jones likes offense and he loves running backs so I see this going down.

Interesting Oakland Raiders Scenarios:

Reggie Ragland MLB Alabama:

Reports are leaking that he has an elarged aorta that needs yearly monitoring.  They hypersensitive NFL; some teams reportedly have him off their board now. The only MLB that can start right away in this draft in my opinion is Alabama MLB Reggie Ragland.   As I’ve said before with the likes of Rolando McClain and others, these aren’t Bear Bryants free wheeling LB’s. Nick Saban runs a controlled and sophisticated zone and Bama LB’s do not have to cover much man to man so you really don’t know how good they are against the pass.

In reality though this would be the safe pick and the one I think the Raiders are leaning to right now.  Will his heart condition change this.

Myles Jack LB UCLA:

Myles Jack value is dropping quickly. Mike Mayock; who isn’t much for personality but who I like; has an interesting scenario where Myles Jack falls all the way to 14 and the Raiders take him. Even though I like Mike let’s be real; 3 days ago he said I can’t believe anyone in the top 10 won’t pick Jack but now in his Mock yesterday he has him falling to 14.

Why? Jack lost himself a lot of money in an “I’m an open book” millennial moment, when a few days ago he told reporters that his knee’s condition is degenerative and that in the future he may or may not need micro-fracture surgery. His exact quote was that no one knows the future but to play 3 years in this league would be above average. I could see his agent slapping his forehead when he heard that saying, “DOH!”. When the player is saying stuff like that then you move on……..Quickly.

Sheldon Rankins DL Louisville:

I like Rankins a lot and he’s going in the top 15 in the draft. I see him going to the Dolphins or the Saints who need help big time at DL. If not he’d be a great get for the Raiders to give them a much needed QB push from the DT position and could immediately upgrade their defense to possibly being a top 5-10 unit.

Shaq Lawson DL Clemson:

At the beginning I just couldn’t believe people downplaying him.  He’s slowly climbed up the ladder and he may be a top 10 pick.  In some mock drafts they have him going to Buffalo after the Raiders so it’s a crap shoot.  If he’s here, how can you pass up on a play maker like Lawson?  If he and Ragland are here wow; what a fun waiting time that will be.  I like Lawson and think you just can’t pass him up.  Talent over need.

Robert Nkemdiche DE Mississippi:

There is always a draft lovechild that fans glop on to and this year it is Nkemdiche. Gholston, Clowney, Gregory; the list is a long one.  He had a great game against Alabama and that’s his calling card; plus a lot of hype. They forget that in 3 years he only had 7 sacks and that in his last 7 games at Ole Miss he averaged 2 tackles a game. He was extremely inconsistent. I may be wrong but I warned people about all galaxy Jadeveon Clowney and how he’d tank and I’m warning others about Robert. To think he’s now going to be a 8-12 sack per year guy in the NFL? I say no way.

William Jackson III CB, Houston:

The University of Houston had a great resurgence last year; just not in the passing defense scene.  They were ranked the 122th rated pass defense in college football.

If you were listening to ESPN radio’s mock drafts yesterday, one of the people choosing picked CB William Jackson III out of Houston for the Raiders pick. I swallowed my gum too.  Don’t laugh; this is the hot name being thrown around by ESPN and their followers and if they blow off Ragland due to health issues, this may be the pick.  It would also be a little attempt at vindication for Reggie.

He had a monster bowl game against Florida St. and looked good in pre draft/NFL combine workouts. Many of the experts really don’t watch all the games so these big televised bowls and senior bowls are big deals to them. In reality he’s another free lancer who is a work out warrior and looks physically impressive. In tackling he’s somewhat soft and not one to like contact. I think this would be a bad pick and he’s a 2nd round project in my book.  I warned you on draft day about DJ Hayden and I’m warning you again.

Chris Jones DL Mississippi St.:

Another pick on the ESPN show was Chris Jones. If Shaq Lawson is there and the Raiders take Chris Jones then it’s a huge mistake.   Jones is a solid player but he’s had issues with conditioning in the past and he’s not a great pass rusher; he’s more of a run stopper. The Raiders have a ton of run stoppers; they need pass rushers. I think Jones is a good player but the Raiders need Shaq Lawson, not Chris Jones.

Karl Joseph S West Virgina:

He is still not recovered from his ACL tear and he won’t be 100% probably for a part of the season.  He is a thumper with a lot of explosiveness.  He was projected as a 1st or 2nd rounder but he’s been climbing.  He’s the best safety in a draft without super star safeties.  This isn’t a value pick; I like Joseph but I think you can get a good safety in the second or 3rd round at better value.

Leonard Floyd LB Georgia:

When you watched a Georgia game last year Floyd flies off the page. He has a lot of football talent and just isn’t an athlete. I wrote about him a few months ago and I like him. The problem is, Florida papers are talking about how Tampa Bay is gushing about him and how much they love him.   Many other teams also quietly like him.   It’s hard to think he’ll be there at #14, but if he is, they will take him.

Final Notes:

Remember that the draft isn’t a gift bag; 31 other teams are in this so you have to adapt to their choices. Keep in mind also that some teams are smart and some aren’t. Not every pick is a good one.

One tidbit that is going around the Bay Area though is that the 49ers LOVE Mackenzie Alexander the CB out of Clemson. The 49ers trading down isn’t out of the question now that they are in full rebuilding mode. Getting a DL and Alexander would be pretty amazing for them. I too love Alexander as a player.

Who ever the Raiders pick the hopes are that it’s a smart pick and not a crazy reach that filled the ghosts of drafts past. Some Raider fans will like any pick; some will hate any pick; but the even keel fans will look at the player and break down the need of the team and the skill set that they bring. As Reggie McKenzie said a few weeks ago, “we’ve done nothing yet. We haven’t won a thing and have work to do”. That is a good attitude to have entering this years draft.

“Who Will Now Be The Oakland Raiders #1 Draft Pick After Their Latest Signing”

mckenzie mack

With the signing of ex Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson, the Raiders filled another hole in their defense that needed to be addressed.  In another cap friendly contract the Raiders get a solid run defender who is also fairly good against the pass.  His high amount of interceptions is a good and bad thing; proves he can get interceptions but it also proves teams are not afraid to throw at him.  He’s going to be 33 in September and that is probably the reason he didn’t get the money he wanted in free agency.

Trading Up:

Someone asks me every week on Twitter why the Raiders don’t ever trade up.  For the most part it’s because it’s not smart all the time.

Unless you need that one player to put you over the top, it’s not a good idea.  Most teams that trade up get burned.  Bill Belichick and the Patriots have been fleecing teams for years.  I still remember the 2013 trade when the Vikings thought they were a WR away from being good.  They traded a #2, #3, #4, & a #7 for New England’s #1 pick.  At the 29th spot they chose Cordarrelle Patterson.  While he’s been a fine return guy, he is now 5th on the WR depth chart and caught 2 passes all of last year.  Four picks for a 5th string WR.

The Bills; overestimating their talent; sent their #9 overall pick in the first round along with a #1 and a #4 in 2015 to Cleveland to pick #4 overall in the 2014 draft to get talented WR Sammy Watkins.  Watkins is good but I didn’t get that trade because the Bills had holes in their offensive line, QB and a few more on the defensive end.

Ron Wolf was never a huge fan of trading the first round pick either at Oakland or Green Bay, so I find it hard to think McKenzie will do it.  Many fans like to talk trade scenarios but NFL teams are huge creatures of habit and unless the Raiders have fallen in love with a player, I don’t see them trading up.

What Are Their Needs Now?

The main needs are at middle linebacker, a defensive back, and another DL.  They probably will also look into a RB and WR in the later rounds.

Ezekiel Elliott will probably go to Philadelphia or the Giants.  A Running Back would be helpful to the Raiders as well but it’s not as big a need as people think.  As I said before, I’m not a fan of Raiders OC Bill Musgrave.  Not giving Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale more carries is just ridiculous.  The lack of imagination in using Roy Helu Jr. last year also hurt the Raiders.  And to the writer that said Elliott was as good as Adrian Peterson in college?  Elliot isn’t even close.  Stop it.

Paralysis by Analysis:

I’ve been monitoring my draft picks for 16 years now.  I want to be right so I take evaluating players seriously.  Most just give brash comments and then move on to the next year but I want my followers to know they can trust my opinion.  We all will be wrong at times but I want to have a history of quality picks and predictions mixed in with my Matt Leinart’s.

People wonder why so many teams make mistakes in the NFL draft.  I think it’s because they over think it.  Paralysis by Analysis; over analyzing.  The more you look into something the more chance you will find fault in it.  Now NFL teams are using an arrest formula to predict how many arrests a player will have.  You can’t make this stuff up.

I think also NFL teams and experts are obsessed with athleticism over football talent.  Darrius Heyward-Bey had no business being the Raiders top pick; in fact he was on my no draft list and to the dismay of Raider fans who applauded the pick, I destroyed the choice on draft day.  DHB was picked purely because of his fast 40 time @ the NFL combines.  He really wasn’t even that good at Maryland.

Look at the old videos on Youtube.  I was watching the draft day video on Aaron Rodgers.  Experts were justifying why he was falling in the draft.  “He has bad hand placement; he has bad mechanics.  Look how high he keeps his hands.  He still has a chance to be a pretty good QB but Alex Smith by far is the best QB in the draft”.

From teams overreacting to Thurman Thomas’ knee, to Jerry Rice and Marcus Allen not being fast enough, the nitpicking gets to be a bit rough.  I’m not saying the other stuff isn’t valuable but as John Madden said, watch the games, not drills with players in gym shorts.  This is still football.  Now let’s look at each position and the possible first round pick for the 2016 NFL draft.

Defensive Line:

This is going to be interesting.  Many think that DL’s will fall in the draft because there are so many potential good ones.  It wouldn’t be a surprise but my feeling is that only QB is more important than a DL so if there is one you like then you pick him.  It will be fun to see.

Kevin Dodd:

I’m not a fan of this pick because in reality he had only 1 good year in college and his teammate; Shaq Lawson; was the one being double teamed most of the year which allowed him to be freed up.  I like Lawson better.  It wouldn’t be a tragedy to pick him but I think he’s overrated.  I think Dodd is a borderline 1stround pick.  Not a fan.

Robert Nkemdiche:  

When I wrote on how Vernon Gholston would be a huge bust in the 2008 draft, Jets fans destroyed me.  Some Raider fans wanted to draft him.  In 3 years he ended up with ZERO sacks & never played again.  I also was ripped apart on ESPN when someone shared the preview article I wrote with me saying how Jadeveon Clowney would also be a bust; 1500 thumbs down.  This year I’m picking Nkemdiche as the poster child to avoid.  His stats were like theirs.

In 3 years Nkemdiche only had 7 sacks.  In his last 7 games last year he averaged 2 tackles a game.  His best college year he had 3 sacks.  For his career he averaged a little under 3 tackles a game.  If that excites you then then that is cool but I pass on him big time.  His football numbers don’t equal his athleticism.

AShawn Robinson:

His talent and work ethic are not questioned but his interviews are.  He’s a good guy but some think he’s really not that passionate about football and with players retiring early, that is a big issue.  This guy is a super hard worker.  He’s big and has a great motor as they say.  Nick Saban said he’s just learning how to pass rush and I think his push up the middle would be a great plus.  He was double teamed a lot and was told to play a lot of 2 gap so in reality he was a key to clogging up the middle.  As one scout said, he knows how to play and these guys are valuable.

Sheldon Rankins:

I like Rankins as well.  Like Robinson he’s raw as a pass rusher but scouts like him.  He is physical and is a good tackler and he would help the Raiders.

Shaq Lawson:

Even with being double teamed often throughout the year, Lawson thrived.  There were more than a few games where it was obvious he was the best player on the field.  I think he’s a special talent that can’t be passed up.  If Lawson and Rankins is there, I pick Lawson.

Defensive Back:

Mackenzie Alexander:

I think he’s the best cornerback in the draft.  Great instinct, cover skills and recovery speed.  He’s a film room junkie who works as hard as anyone in college football.  Confident, physical and tough and he plays with a swagger.  I love this guy.  Teams just stopped throwing his way.  He gave up 11 passes all last year and no touchdowns.  NFL scouts hate that he’s only 5 10” but I don’t care.  This guy is really good.  If you pick him, now you have a great nickel back who has time to learn the position.  TJ Carrie and Nelson and Nate Allen can play safety with Smith, Amerson & Alexander playing CB.  A good mix of youth and experience.

Vernon Hargreaves:

Oh the fickle NFL draft.  Remember when Hargreaves was in the top 5 of most everyone’s mock draft?  Not anymore.  In fact I just saw him falling as low as 16 now in an experts draft.  Another great athlete but he gave up 16.5 yards per pass play and struggled in Florida’s two toughest games; Michigan and Alabama.  Two months ago I said I liked Alexander over him and again got the idiot tag.  I’ll stick by what I said.

Linebacker:

There are slim pickings for MLB so it’s going to be tricky here.  There really is only 1 first rounder with Kentrell Brothers being the next best MLB after Reggie Ragland but most think he’s a mid to late 2nd rounder.

Reggie Ragland:

Ragland is a classic Alabama linebacker who is a thumper.  He is a good tackler and very physical.  As I’ve said before, Alabama linebackers are a risk.  Nick Saban plays almost all zone and LB’s at Bama don’t have to cover RB’s man to man.  You literally don’t know if they can cover.  The Raiders found that out with Rolando McClain.  He wasn’t a good cover guy and the pick didn’t pan out.  I’m not a fan of this pick because of the risk but again; but their are slim pickings at MLB this year.

Darron Lee: 

Lee is the favorite for some but he is an OLB so I don’t get the love.  It’s also a huge risk.  Lee is a great athlete but he’s pretty lean for a LB position in the NFL and at times struggled against power blockers.  He also has been playing LB for only 2 years; that’s in his life.  He was a QB in high school and he played safety early on at OSU.  A great athlete and again, that’s what the NFL likes but he has a lot to learn.

Leonard Floyd:

Wow; this guy has talent.  I love his potential and I like him over Lee.  He needs to be consistent and with the right coaching he can be something special.  I would not be hurt by drafting Floyd and then getting a MLB in the later rounds.  If he’ll play hard every play, he can be special.  If the Raiders are looking at just talent, this guy is hard to pass up even though it doesn’t fix the MLB problem, but they could address it later.

Who will the Raiders pick?

If it was me I would take Lawson, Alexander and Floyd in that order.  Floyd is moving up the charts I think and if he is a top 10 pick I would not be surprised.  I would then pick a MLB in the 2nd or 3rd round.

No one really knows; not even the Raiders at this point; but I think the Raiders are going to go for the safest pick.  The draft has very slim pickings at MLB and they really need one.  As of now I see them drafting Reggie Ragland MLB out of Alabama.  He can definitely start right away and if you draft an MLB in the lower rounds, they may not be ready to start.  Ben Heeney is a nice backup but he’s not a full time starter IMHO.

Whoever they pick it will be another piece to help the Raiders attempt to be a playoff team.  It’s hard to realize that there has never been a Tweet or a Facebook post that has ever talked about a Raiders playoff game.  Facebook started in 2004 and Twitter in 2006.  Hopefully for the Raiders that will end this year.      

“Over 5.2 Million NFL Fans Vote The 1976 Oakland Raiders the Best Team Of All Time”

davis madden

In 2012 over 5.2 million NFL fans voted in the NFL.com tournament picking the greatest NFL team in history.  The winner was the 1976 Oakland Raiders.  Little was made of the vote in the media, so I will expand on it.

In my mind it’s hard to pick just one.  The Bill Walsh 49ers, the Tom Landry Cowboys, Vince Lombardi’s machines in Green Bay, the great dynasty in Pittsburgh & Miami and so many others.  It did make me happy though that fans from all over the country showed respect to a team that is often overlooked for its’ greatness, ESPECIALLY on the east coast.  Some east coast media people know little of what happens west of the Mississippi.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d827fc2d9/article/1976-raiders-edge-2000-ravens-for-title-of-greatest-team-ever

Most young fans today seem to only really know things that happen in their own era but usually the smartest people are those that know a lot about history.  It’s important for us all to appreciate history, especially in sports.  The funniest post I saw lately was a young guy that said he knew a lot about the Raiders and that he had been a long suffering Oakland fan since 2007.  Why can’t life have a “slap someone in the back of the head” button?

The 2000 Baltimore Ravens?:

I got into a battle with a Baltimore Raven fan last year who argued that the 2000 Ravens were the greatest team in history.  They aren’t even in my top ten.  Here is a team that didn’t even win their division and they lost 3 games in a row during the middle of the year.  During those three losses, they only scored 15 points in 12 quarters.

http://espn.go.com/blog/afcwest/post/_/id/13842/best-raiders-team-ever-1976

The 1970’s teams were so much better than today because of several reasons.  They didn’t have to deal with high salaries, guaranteed money or the salary cap.  That’s why they were loaded with talent.  Many backups could start on other teams.

Many teams had backup quarterbacks that were as good as many of the starters on bad teams.  Ken Stabler was a backup until Daryle Lamonica got hurt.  Earl Morrall was a backup until HOF QB Bob Greise broke his ankle in week 5, and all Morrall did was lead the Dolphins to the only unbeaten season in NFL history.  I don’t see ANY NFL backup today; or most of the starters to be honest; doing anywhere near that any time soon.

Why the 1976 Raiders?:

The 1976 Raiders had 11; YES ELEVEN; future hall of fame players and front office people on it.  Add Cliff Branch and Jack Tatum who should both be in it and that’s 13.  Name a team in todays’ NFL that has 11 Hall of Famers.  In the 1970’s there were many teams with 7-10 future HOF players.

With the passing of Kenny Stabler, many fans, media and ex players began to finally really appreciate just how great this Raiders team was.  I’ve been lucky on the last few radio interviews that I’ve done to have followed nationally syndicated sports people who knew their stuff and who ended up saying the same things I was saying in regards to this amazing era of the 1970’s and it’s greatness.

Almost all NFL historians agree that the 1970’s was the greatest era of modern professional football.  In that decade the Raiders won more games than any other team.  They had the best quarterback, the best offensive line, and the best defensive backfield.  Add amazing hall of famers and a defense that could get to the quarterback, and you had an all-time great team.

Offensive Line:

The 1976 Oakland Raiders are considered to have the greatest offensive line of all time.  The line of Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Dave Dalby, George Buehler, and John Vella, was probably the most physical of all time as well.  At 6’ 5”, Gene Upshaw talked trash and intimidated from the minute he walked on the field until the game was over.  Gene Upshaw is still the only player in NFL history to play in 3 Super Bowls in 3 different decades with the same team.  Sporting News ranked Gene Upshaw as the 62nd greatest NFL player of all time.

Art Shell was a quiet giant but a physical specimen at 6’ 5” who decimated defenders.  Sporting News voted Shell the 55th greatest football player of all time.  Yes they were that good.

Dave Dalby was one of the more beloved Raiders of all time, as well as one of the more unsung ones.  He was a rock at Center following the great career of Jim Otto.  At 6’ 3”, he was considered the smallest Raider offensive linemen.  He never missed a game in 14 years and was voted on the UCLA all century team.  He tragically died @ the age of 51 after struggling to adjust to life after football.  There are still Christian websites that have stories about how kind and supportive he was to so many people.

George Buehler was a rock at guard for the Raiders.  He was another unsung player who shined in the post season.  His domination of Vikings defensive tackle Doug Southerland in the Super Bowl is a part of NFL lore.

John Vella was quiet and easy going but had a volatile temper when angered which fit right into the Raiders physical play.

The Soul Patrol:

There is no cooler group of NFL players than the Soul Patrol.  I’ve written about them often and I’ve included one of my articles on them below which now is one of the most popular articles on the internet about them.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/the-greatest-defensive-backfield-of-all-time-the-oakland-raiders-soul-patrol/

“Dr. Death” Skip Thomas; The Assassin Jack Tatum; George “Butch” Atkinson and Willie Brown were the greatest of all time.  “The 5 yard chuck rule was actually created because of them”, said Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton.  “It was almost unfair to try and get off the line with these guys”.  In the 1970’s DB’s could pretty much do what they wanted to a wide receiver as long as the ball wasn’t in the air.  That’s why people need to give WR of the 1970’s much more credit.  The pinball numbers of today doesn’t mean that these WR are great.  If you were good against the Soul Patrol then you were great.

The Greatest 2 Minute QB of All Time:

John Madden said that if he had to pick one QB to do one last minute drive he’d pick Ken Stabler.  Joe Montana said he emulated his game after him.  The Holy Roller, the Sea of Hands, the Ghost to the Post; the game was never over if Ken Stabler was on the field.

I still propose that ALL Hall of Fame voters votes be made public.  It’s really a shame to not have Ken enjoy his special day due to petty biases.  It’s time to start calling out writers because of their ridiculous biases; but that’s for another day.

Stabler was one of a kind.  He wouldn’t see the trainers as long as players were in the locker room; he constantly took blame when his team failed, and spread the credit when they won.  He was a great leader, friend and man.  He partied like a rock star, but always showed up on game day.  He was pure Raider.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/the-passing-of-legendary-raider-ken-stabler-shocks-a-nation/

Ground and Pound:

When you think of the 1976 Oakland Raiders, you think of Stabler throwing to Casper or Fred Biletnikoff or Cliff Branch.  You see Stabler tossing passes to his running backs or hitting Mike Siani in the end zone.  But in reality the Raiders were also a power running, physical team.  They were consistently a top 10 rushing team in the 1970’s and occasionally was the best running team.  In the Playoffs they decimated the Steal Curtain for 157 rushing yards in the AFC Championship game and had an amazing 237 yards against the Purple People Eaters of the Vikings in the Super Bowl.

Mark Van Eeghen was a do it all Fullback.  He was the replacement for Marv Hubbard.  Mark could block, run, and catch the ball.  He rushed for 1012 yards in a 14 game season.

Clarence Davis was the speed half back of the group.  Even though he didn’t have great hands, he managed to catch 27 passes and dominated in the post season, especially the Super Bowl.  His miracle catch in the Sea Of Hands game is eternally etched in the minds of all football fans.

The Raiders were one of the first teams to use situational players.  Running Back Pete Banaszak was their short yardage back and he usually was a leader for the Raiders in rushing touchdowns.

With solid RB’s and a great OL with tight ends that could block, the Raiders ground game was second to none.

Speed & Precision:

Cliff Branch and Fred Biletnikoff may be the greatest WR tandom of all time.  In each end zone a “speed kills” sign was always seen in Oakland.  As Ken Stabler once said, “Cliff could outrun half of the cars in the parking lot”.  He was track star fast up until the day he retired.  In many of the biggest games, Branch caught key passes.  He was an amazing part of the “throw deep” mentality of the Raiders.  They could score from any where at any time.

Fred Biletnikoff had the greatest hands of all time.  If it was near him, he’d catch it.  He was a ballerina on the football field with perfect route running skills.  He could position his body perfectly to make sure he had the best chance to catch a ball.  He was a true artist on the football field.  Add quality backup Mike Siani who could start for many teams; and you had one heck of a WR core.

Then there was HOF Tight End Dave Casper and short yardage & goal line TE Warren Bankston in the mix.  They also had the greatest punter of all time in HOF Ray Guy.

The Defense:

Along with the Soul Patrol, you had some of the toughest and craziest players of all time.  Some called Oakland the Island of Misfit Toys.  Wildman John Matuszak, Otis Sistrunk from the University of Mars.  Prankster and stud LB Phil Vilipiano.  The Mad Stork Ted Hendricks who was as crazy as all of them.  The Raiders defense straight up dominated in the post season wreaking havoc whenever a quarterback went back to pass.

Coaching & Front Office:

Al Davis was one of the greatest owners of all time.  He was a rebel that hated anything that wasn’t silver & black.  He took a chance on a linebacker coach named John Madden.  A HOF coach who had 3 simple rules; be on time, pay attention, and play like hell when I tell you.  Helping call the shots for Al Davis was Hall of Fame player personnel director Ron Wolf; maybe the greatest player evaluator in the modern era.

To top it off you have the Oakland Coliseum; “The House Of Thrills” that was as loud as any stadium in history with some of the most loyal and rowdy fans which created pure magic.  And the icing on the cake was Bill King; NFL Films Steve Sabol’s favorite announcer; the greatest radio sports broadcaster of all time, waxing poetically.  How he isn’t in at least 2 HOF’s is a miscarriage of sports justice.

So there you have it.  A trip down memory lane.  What a fun and amazing history. One of the greatest teams of all time……I’m sorry; THE greatest team of all time. Pillaging just for fun.

“Oakland Raiders First 2 Signings Bigger Than People Think; Meet the Players”

 

Bruce+Irvin+Seattle+Seahawks+Practice+iNtZcjL7tYUl

As fans, it’s hard to not get excited every year about your team.  Every fan base is the same.  Baseball has made it an art form.

For anyone that has followed and read me on my return the last year and a half, they know I’m obsessed with facts and being honest.  Facts are always greater than opinions.  I have the following I have because people trust me and I work hard for them; I want people to know the inside stuff, not the fluff.  I don’t have an editor or corporation telling me what I can and can’t say so I’m unique; I’m straight up.  So If I think a team did something good, I really believe it.  The Raiders did something good; twice.

For Raider fans the last 13 years have been very difficult.  Even with bad teams, the fan base has been very excited every year; but in reality they should be excited by all that is happening before this upcoming season.

With the start of free agency, the Raiders have signed their first two players.  Let’s look at why these signings were extra special.

kelechi-osemele.0.0

Kelechi Osemele (OL from Baltimore):

This signing solidifies the Raiders offensive line.  The OL was good last year but it should really shine this year with the signing of Kelechi Osemele.

Osemele is an old school Raider type and he’s only 26.  He’s huge at 6’ 5” 330 lbs. and he’s extremely physical.  In the back end of the zone blocking era, he’s an old school power run blocker, and a very physical pass blocker.  He also brings a great amount of versatility which will help.  He’s played both tackle and guard equally well which helps with depth and flexibility which is important during the salary cap era.  He earned a Super Bowl ring being a starter on a very good Baltimore Ravens offensive line his rookie year.

Derek Carr is a good quarterback but he is no where near the same quarterback when he’s under a pass rush.  The better the protection, the more successful he is.  It wasn’t a coincidence that he struggled at times during the second half of the season while the Raiders sacks against totals increased.

He was 31st in 4th quarter passer rating and last in interceptions in the 4th quarter.  These stats can be helped with this signing.  People liked to blame the OL totally but some of this wasn’t on them though; the Raiders didn’t adjust to teams playing two deep zone and taking away the long pass; but in reality the better you protect Derek Carr, the more offensive success the Raiders will have.  This signing is a very big one and I’m sure Carr and the Raiders are very excited.

Bruce-Irvin-Florida-04-10-15
Linebacker Bruce Irvin with Orlando Super Fan Camden Ayres

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/25143820/look-bruce-irvin-meets-seahawks-fans-in-florida-makes-one-kids-day

Bruce Irvin (LB from Seattle):

Bruce Irvin is one of those players whose importance is not seen in the stat sheets, but in the way he plays.  This is an underrated signing but for much different reasons than people think.  He’s played a key role in Seattle’s defense and they will have problems replacing him.

If you feel the Raiders are now going to rival the best pass rushes in the NFL then you really don’t get this signing.  In Irvin’s rookie year, he got 8 sacks with 16 tackles and many thought he’d be a huge pass rusher.  He has leveled out his pass rush stats the last 3 years getting 14 of them.  Last year he had 5.5 sacks and 38 tackles.  Not eye popping numbers but solid.

What Irvin DOES bring to the table for the Raiders is something that has been lacking in their defense for a long time.  As I stated in my preview of last year, the Raiders signings were good but the problem was that many of the defensive players were one dimensional.

Curtis Lofton at LB was a good tackler and good against the run, but he struggles covering the pass.  If teams passed on first down, Lofton was exposed.   Malcolm Smith is a good cover guy at LB but not that great against the run.  Dan Williams shored up the run defense but he’s not a pass rusher in any way.

What Irvin gives the Raiders is versatility and an ability to play all 4 downs.  He can rush the passer or play the run at DE, and he can stop the run and cover at LB.  He gives them a flexibility to move him around like he did at Seattle which helped their defense a lot.  His ability to play all downs was very important to their success.  The Seattle DL was very good and it helped to have a versatile player like Irvin that teams could not scheme against because they moved him around so much.  I hope the Raiders do the same with Irvin because he is a good talent in the prime of his career at 28.

Final Thoughts:

Free agency is always a crazy time.  Fans forget that there are 31 other teams that want these players, and many times it’s the signing of lesser known players that makes the team much better.  You can’t pick and choose who you want, and 90% of the rumors being thrown about are mostly wrong.  It’s fun to talk about though but in reality many of the things bantered about don’t come true.

The game has changed; DB’s just can’t cover players for long periods of time with the new rules protecting WR so a stud DL and pass rush isn’t a need anymore, it’s a must have.  In the early parts of free agency though, already the Raiders went far into shoring up their team for next year.  There is still a lot of work to do, but this is a great start.

“What The Oakland Raiders Look Like Right Now, and What Moves Can Help Them Improve Quickly”

Carr001

It’s been a good off season so far for the Oakland Raiders.  The Raiders still have much work to do though with their two most pressing needs; a fast #1 wide receiver and 1-2 good pass rushers still worrying many.

The first half of the off season is free agency and the draft and post draft signings are the second half.  Until the post NFL draft signings, you really don’t know what your team has as far as talent.

People are also finding out rumors as an adult are pretty much the same as those when we were kids; false.  Teams often leak lies to fool the media and other teams to get them off the track of what they really wanted to do.  Mike Silver gave up on the Raiders a long time ago realizing at times that the Raiders were playing the media like a fiddle.

Al Davis literally never said anything and sports writers would tell people who the Raiders were going to pick getting information from their “insiders” when in reality they had no clue.  All of these “insiders” that think they know what is going on are often pawns for the most part.  Why in the world would billion dollar corporations leak information to tell their competitors what they are going to do and what they want.  If they do that, all their leverage is lost.  The NFL and their owners may be greedy and narcissistic at times, but they aren’t stupid.  Again, it’s fun for fans but take it with a grain of salt.

Everyone for months had the Raiders taking a wide receiver for their first draft pick but I’ve CONSTANTLY disagreed.  I think there is no way that the Tennessee Titans are NOT taking a quarterback or at least trading down to a team that want’s a quarterback; namely Oregon QB Marcus Mariotta.

With that happening, all around good player DL Leonard Williams will be available and the Raiders HAVE to take him.  Their pass rush might be the worst in the NFL and they need 2 pass rushers.

I think in the free agency sector, none of the pass rushers that are left are really worth much money and they are not going to help very much.  With the release of DL Antonio Smith, I think the Raiders are looking to make a trade soon by freeing up a little more cap space.  A really good defensive end in New Orleans, Cameron Jordan has been rumored by some teams including the Raiders.  He’s young and his 28 sacks in 3 years is going to help some team a lot.

I personally felt that the Raiders should have a 2 year plan.  They had a lot of holes to fill and you can’t do it in just one off season.

Today, lets first look at the Offense and how each position looks as of now, and how it can be improved.

Quarterback:  Derek Carr, Matt McGloin, Christian Ponder

Even with so many internet people trying to stir the pot, Derek Carr is the Raiders starting quarterback for the 2015-16 season.  He showed a lot of potential and with hard work and improvement, the Raiders hope that he will turn into a good NFL quarterback for years to come.  He HAS to audible a lot more to help out the run game and he needs to handle a pass rush better, but overall, he survived the rookie season with a good grade for the most part.  The Raiders were anemic on offense on the road and that obviously has to improve.

Matt McGloin is an adequate backup.  The Raiders dropped Matt Schaub and added Christian Ponder.  People scratched their heads when the Vikings picked him in the first round and he never panned out.  He was benched several times at Florida St. for poor play but lets face it; if you are tall with a big arm, the NFL will always have a home for you.  Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was the coordinator for the Vikings so that is the connection to Ponder.  Ponders best play was handing off to Adrian Peterson in sprint draws.

Outlook:

Lets just say like most teams the Raiders hope their starter Derek Carr stays very, very healthy.

Sleeper Solutions:  

None.  Unless you can put Ken Stabler in a time machine, this should be the depth chart at Quarterback.

Running Back:  Latavius Murray, Roy Helu, Trent Richardson, George Atkinson III, Jamize Olawale

Gone are Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew.  The Raiders added 3rd down specialist Roy Helu, and much maligned Trent Richardson.

Helu is a very good third down back who can also carry the load on occasion.  He lead the NFL in yards per touch on third down and is a great pass catcher.  He is tough and durable and is a good signing.

After his rookie season teams found out Richardson has little to no vision and is a straight ahead runner.  In college he could run over people, but in the pro’s not so much.  Anything they can get out of him will make the Raiders happy.

Latavius Murray showed flashes of brilliance last year.  He’s big and fast, which is what Raiders OC Musgrave likes.  He must prove he can stay healthy though.

Marcel Reece was vastly underused last year and the hopes are that he will get 10-15 touches a game at an H-back or tight end position.  George Atkinson Jr. and Jamize Olawale are probably the odd men out.

The fullback used to be such a powerful weapon and now the NFL just wants them to block.  The Raiders need to use Reece more like an 80’s or 90’s full back and not just be a follower and do what all the other teams are doing.

Outlook:

Helu is a solid third down back and the hopes are that Murray can carry the load and stay healthy.  Anything Richardson can give is the berries and the hopes are that Marcel Reece will get more touches.

Sleeper Solution:

If the Raiders do draft a running back I would LOVE for them to take David Cobb from the Minnesota Gophers in the 3rd or 4th round.  He is built exactly like Marion Barber and he’s a load.  At 5’ 11” and 235, he won’t run off 80 yarders but he’s powerful and tough, somewhat elusive and is a work horse who finishes runs.  He has some speed and 54% of his yards came after the first contact which is pretty amazing.  He was made for the NFL power running game.

Wide Receiver:  James Jones, Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Brice Butler, Kenbrell Thompkins, Seth Roberts

James Jones is a solid #2 WR and is a good red zone target.  Rod Streater is an average WR and I’m not getting why Kenbrell Thompkins gets so much playing time.  He has never been very productive in the NFL.

Andre Holmes needs to step up and achieve success instead of just having loads of potential. The wild card is Brice Butler.  He needs to get on the field.  His 47 yard touchdown catch and run against San Diego showed eye popping speed.

Outlook: 

The Raiders obviously still need a #1 wide receiver and they will for sure draft one.  Butler and Holmes have to get the bulk of the playing time after Jones.  This group has potential.  I’m not going to add to the thousands of posts on Kevin White and Amari Cooper.

Sleeper Solution: 

I still think the Titans are going to draft a quarterback and I see USC DL Leonard Williams being there at #4.  If he is and I’m the Raiders, I take Williams in a New York minute.  Without a pass rush the Raiders don’t win anything.

I then turn around in the second round and get the speed merchant big time playmaking wide receiver Devin Smith out of Ohio St. who should be there in the early second round.  He makes big plays at the biggest times and he is unique in that he doesn’t break stride or lose speed when he is going after a ball.  A guy named Cliff Branch had that same talent.

You now have Smith, Jones, Holmes and Butler.  Now you got the start of something.  Three speed burners and a great red zone target.  Not bad.

If the Raiders draft White or Cooper because Williams isn’t there, then I still get that too.  In the 2016 draft there are 6-8 really good possible first round pass rushers with possibly more to show up on the board.

Offensive Line:    Donald Penn, Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson, Khalif Barnes, Austin Howard

With the addition of Center Rodney Hudson, the Raiders have the makings of a really good OL.  Gabe Jackson is all they thought he would be and the OL protected Derek Carr well against the pass.  Donald Penn is solid at Tackle but he will be 32 next year and with it being a contract year he may not stay.

The Run game was blamed on the OL but when you have a quarterback that doesn’t audible, and play calling that would make Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler scratch their heads, you are not going to run the ball successfully. They were more conservative than Ronald Reagan in a red state.

The hopes are that with a more experienced quarterback, much better play calling and with more downfield weapons, the Raiders will have a much better running game.

Outlook:

Khalif Barnes was inconsistent last year.  Look for the Raiders to get another OL either in the later rounds of the draft or in free agency.

Sleeper Solution: 

None; unless they get an OL in the later rounds for depth, these will be the starters for the Raiders.

Tight EndMychal Rivera, Nick Kasa, Brian Leonhardt, Scott Simonson, Lee Smith

No one will mistake the Raiders tight ends for Dave Casper, Raymond Chester or Todd Christensen.  They definitely need some help.

Mychal Rivera was solid, but they didn’t throw to him much.  His blocking did improve and he can be a weapon.  Other than Rivera, there really isn’t any other pass catching threat.

The Raiders signed Lee Smith from the Buffalo Bills.  He is a big, brash run blocking tight end with very limited pass catching skills.

Outlook: 

I think eventually the Raiders may sign a veteran.

Sleeper Solution:

Zach Miller could also be an option.  He wasn’t used very well by the Seahawks.  He is 29 and was cut by Seattle for a failed physical last month.  Supposedly he’s able to pass one now and Tom Brady and the Patriot’s love his game and are quietly talking to him.

Marcel Reece would be perfect as a tight end in passing situations.  Reece is too talented to not give him the ball.

That’s a look at the offense of the Oakland Raiders.  Tomorrow we will take a look at the defense which has some very good additions.